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Risotto alla Milanese: a few questions


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There are a couple of very brief topics that are only peripherally related to my questions -- a seven-post one from 2007 and a two-post one from 2012 -- so I'm not going to even bother with links here.

 

I've made risotto many, many times, so I'm not asking about basic technique per se. About 5½ weeks from now (ergo, lots of time to figure this out), I want to make an authentic risotto alla Milanese, and I have some questions about it. I'm going to refer here to "classic" and "modern" recipes. "Classic" = three of my go-to dead-tree books from the 90s by Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich, and Lynne Rossetto Kasper. "Modern" = web recipes from Mario Batali, Grace Parisi, and Anne Burrell, along with ones from Serious Eats, Williams-Sonoma, and Saveur.

 

1) To marrow or not to marrow? That is a question. Classic recipes say yes (although Kasper says she prefers hers without); modern recipes don't include it. Why the heck is that? I do have some very nice marrow bones at home, so that's not the issue, but I was wondering what, if anything, would be missing from the aroma and taste if I omitted it.

 

2) Hazan and Kasper add the marrow at the start, while cooking the onion; Bastianich adds it after the first ladle of stock has been absorbed. Any thoughts here?

 

3) Speaking of cooking the onion, there seems to be no clear preference in the recipes for olive oil, butter, or a mixture of butter and oil. Unsalted butter seems more appropriate to me. Do you have a preference?

 

4) And speaking of stock, Kasper uses poultry; Bastianich and Hazan use beef or meat stock. All of the modern recipes use chicken stock. Any thoughts about why that is? I imagine there's a not-insignificant difference in the taste of the final product.

 

5) All of the classic recipes hold back some stock in which to dissolve the saffron, then add this liquid part-way through the cooking process. All of the modern recipes, except for Parisi, dissolve the saffron in the big saucepan of stock before starting to add it to the rice. (Parisi crumbles the saffron and adds it to the wine in the pan, prior to adding any stock. Weird.) Any ideas why? Have people just gotten lazy over the past 20 years or does it truly not make a difference?

 

Thanks!

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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I haven't used marrow in risotta alla milanese because of lack of availability, but if I could get it I would use it. Have you found anyone use celery in this risotto? I haven't used it myself but I watched a video (can't remember the reference) where the person making the risotto started with a thumb-sized piece of celery.

 

Unsalted butter is always my preference so I can control the salt in the food. I like a mixture of oil and butter to have a balance of richness and control of cooking temperature. Though you could just use all clarified butter.

 

For question 4, I think it's dependent on whether you use marrow or not. If you're using a marrow bone, a richer stock seems more appropriate. Chicken broth just seems like something anyone has hanging around the kitchen, so it's an easy go-to.

 

For question 5, I personally have the best results adding the saffron to the broth after I've used half of it. I find the saffron flavor is more robust if I let it bloom in the broth later rather than adding it earlier. I'm going to say this is personal preference. 

 

This is my usual Italian food reference: https://www.amazon.com/Silver-Spoon-New-Kitchen/dp/0714862568

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1 hour ago, winedoc said:

I haven't used marrow in risotta alla milanese because of lack of availability, but if I could get it I would use it. Have you found anyone use celery in this risotto? I haven't used it myself but I watched a video (can't remember the reference) where the person making the risotto started with a thumb-sized piece of celery.

 

Unsalted butter is always my preference so I can control the salt in the food. I like a mixture of oil and butter to have a balance of richness and control of cooking temperature. Though you could just use all clarified butter.

 

For question 4, I think it's dependent on whether you use marrow or not. If you're using a marrow bone, a richer stock seems more appropriate. Chicken broth just seems like something anyone has hanging around the kitchen, so it's an easy go-to.

 

For question 5, I personally have the best results adding the saffron to the broth after I've used half of it. I find the saffron flavor is more robust if I let it bloom in the broth later rather than adding it earlier. I'm going to say this is personal preference. 

 

This is my usual Italian food reference: https://www.amazon.com/Silver-Spoon-New-Kitchen/dp/0714862568

 

Thanks, winedoc. I haven't seen any recipes that make use of celery.

 

What you wrote about the broth makes sense.

 

I also have the Silver Spoon cookbook; it's indeed an excellent reference.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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After getting Hazan's book on classic Italian cooking and reading her preference for beef stock I contacted a friend who is both an excellent cook and married into an Italian family to get his take. He has tried beef stock but risotto with chicken stock is the preference. His MIL, whom I dearly love, wouldn't hold back at all if she thought he should be using beef broth instead of chicken.

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20 hours ago, winedoc said:

 

I haven't used marrow in risotta alla milanese because of lack of availability

 

Is been a while but I used get "marrow bones" at the grocery store.

Most folks use these for dogs.

I would ask. Most butchers can slice a bone for you.

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On 3/17/2017 at 7:30 PM, Alex said:

1) To marrow or not to marrow? That is a question. Classic recipes say yes (although Kasper says she prefers hers without); modern recipes don't include it. Why the heck is that? I do have some very nice marrow bones at home, so that's not the issue, but I was wondering what, if anything, would be missing from the aroma and taste if I omitted it.

 

I don't always do marrow but it should be there. If I have the time, I will cook the marrow on very low heat to melt it and strain it,  so I won't  have black spots on my risotto. It is traditional to use also a tiny bit of "sugo d'arrosto", roast jus.

You start with butter and marrow (and a very small quantity of roast jus) if you have it.

 

On 3/17/2017 at 7:30 PM, Alex said:

2) Hazan and Kasper add the marrow at the start, while cooking the onion; Bastianich adds it after the first ladle of stock has been absorbed. Any thoughts here?

 

 

Beginning, already answer on 1.

 

On 3/17/2017 at 7:30 PM, Alex said:

3) Speaking of cooking the onion, there seems to be no clear preference in the recipes for olive oil, butter, or a mixture of butter and oil. Unsalted butter seems more appropriate to me. Do you have a preference?

 

 

 

 Never ever oil in risotto alla milanese. Although in the rest of Italy some people will use oil for a true Milanese is a sacrilege. And I agree, oil doesn't belong here. The only thing is that sometimes I like to cook more onion on the side with butter, for long, until it's melting soft (no color) and use just a couple tablespoon to add when I toast the rice. No wine btw, I don't like it in here.

 

On 3/17/2017 at 7:30 PM, Alex said:

4) And speaking of stock, Kasper uses poultry; Bastianich and Hazan use beef or meat stock. All of the modern recipes use chicken stock. Any thoughts about why that is? I imagine there's a not-insignificant difference in the taste of the final product.

 

 

 

No doubt for me, beef stock! 100% and differently than the French it's never a brown stock, no roasting, and done with a mix of bones (no marrow) and meat. The taste is off to me if it doesn't have beef stock.

 

On 3/17/2017 at 7:30 PM, Alex said:

5) All of the classic recipes hold back some stock in which to dissolve the saffron, then add this liquid part-way through the cooking process. All of the modern recipes, except for Parisi, dissolve the saffron in the big saucepan of stock before starting to add it to the rice. (Parisi crumbles the saffron and adds it to the wine in the pan, prior to adding any stock. Weird.) Any ideas why? Have people just gotten lazy over the past 20 years or does it truly not make a difference?

 

 

To me it's depends on the saffron you have, very good quality or "fake". The good quality, I'll add only at the end dissolved in stock.

But many times I'll use the fake powdered saffron from 3 cuochi that I bring back from Italy and I will cook my risotto 90% of the time in my pressure cooker, because, regardless a culinary degree and being brought up by Lombardi grandparents, my risotto in the pressure cookers comes so much better than the traditionally made.

 

Just as a curiosity, in Lombardy, nobody calls it risotto alla milanese but risotto giallo, yellow risotto.

Edited by Franci (log)
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6 hours ago, winedoc said:

Out of curiosity, are you serving pork chop alla milanese with this meal?

 

Possibly. Still lots of time to decide. Would you serve it alongside the risotto, as with osso bucco, or would you have them be separate courses?

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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3 hours ago, Franci said:

 

I don't always do marrow but it should be there. If I have the time, I will cook the marrow on very low heat to melt it and strain it,  so I won't  have black spots on my risotto. It is traditional to use also a tiny bit of "sugo d'arrosto", roast jus.

You start with butter and marrow (and a very small quantity of roast jus) if you have it.

 

 

Beginning, already answer on 1.

 

 

 Never ever oil in risotto alla milanese. Although in the rest of Italy some people will use oil for a true Milanese is a sacrilege. And I agree, oil doesn't belong here. The only thing is that sometimes I like to cook more onion on the side with butter, for long, until it's melting soft (no color) and use just a couple tablespoon to add when I toast the rice. No wine btw, I don't like it in here.

 

 

No doubt for me, beef stock! 100% and differently than the French it's never a brown stock, no roasting, and done with a mix of bones (no marrow) and meat. The taste is off to me if it doesn't have beef stock.

 

 

To me it's depends on the saffron you have, very good quality or "fake". The good quality, I'll add only at the end dissolved in stock.

But many times I'll use the fake powdered saffron from 3 cuochi that I bring back from Italy and I will cook my risotto 90% of the time in my pressure cooker, because, regardless a culinary degree and being brought up by Lombardi grandparents, my risotto in the pressure cookers comes so much better than the traditionally made.

 

Just as a curiosity, in Lombardy, nobody calls it risotto alla milanese but risotto giallo, yellow risotto.

 

 

Thank you, Franci. That's all very helpful.

 

One of my sources -- I forget which one -- also wrote about the potential black spots. I assume "strain it" means to discard the solids and use just the fat that makes it through the strainer, yes?

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"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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16 hours ago, Alex said:

 

Possibly. Still lots of time to decide. Would you serve it alongside the risotto, as with osso bucco, or would you have them be separate courses?

You could have a whole milanese meal if you have the risotto as the first course and the pork chop as the second course with a cooked vegetable. If together, going the lighter route without the marrow and using chicken stock might be nice because the breaded cutlet might seem a bit heavy with the risotto. So many options.

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44 minutes ago, winedoc said:

You could have a whole milanese meal if you have the risotto as the first course and the pork chop as the second course with a cooked vegetable. If together, going the lighter route without the marrow and using chicken stock might be nice because the breaded cutlet might seem a bit heavy with the risotto. So many options.

 

I like your first idea, then perhaps a little cheese afterward, or maybe just a mug of barbajada.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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